Honda's humanoid robot, ASIMO, recently celebrated its 14th birthday. The diminutive android has experienced some minor upgrades over the years, but nothing quite like it's latest batch of enhancements. Just watch what ASIMO can do now.

Lance Ulanoff and the team at Mashable recently attended a demonstration of the new-and-improved ASIMO at the International Auto Show in New York:


And another video from AFP:


The first thing that struck me was the human-like way ASIMO can now move; it can run quite elegantly at a speed of 3 mph. The new version is much lighter and a little-bit smaller than its predecessor which gives it that added agility. In addition, ASIMO can pick up a sealed container filled with juice, unscrew the top, pick up a cup with its hand, pour the juice, and carefully set both items back on the table.

Writing in an accompanying Mashable article, Ulanoff explains that ASIMO uses a great number of sensors, including its two camera eyes and the sensors in its hands. These tell the robot that it's holding something, what kind of object it is, and how much it weighs.

As Honda works hard to remove the "creepiness" factor from ASIMO, it's steadily approaching the uncanny valley. As Ulanoff writes:

ASIMO, for example, can serve tea — but instead of focusing the robot entirely on the task of delivering and pouring hot liquid, Honda has programmed ASIMO to pause and look at the guests before bending down and placing the tea on the table. That simple act, which mimics what a human might do, "helps people have more friendliness and affinity toward ASIMO," explained one Honda executive through an interpreter.

It's also critical that ASIMO, which can now recognize faces and vocal commands, also read our non-verbal communication. Honda researchers hope to build this skill by placing ASIMO in more real-world situations, where they can collect additional data.

[ Mashable ]